Friday, November 11, 2011

Authority Online

As we have discussed in class, the online world offers a platform where the everyday man can voice his or her opinions. One of the most prominent platforms are online forums, or Blogs. Blogs allow for any likeminded people to come together over a number of issues, the most popular of these issues is religion.  An example of this type of religious online forum is “”  On this website, viewers are allowed to voice their thoughts and opinions on matters concerning Jewish fundamentals from philosophies, the Torah, and even to issues concerning marriage.
 Since these types of online blogs are a space where anyone can voice a thought and gain followers, blogs create what we have discussed as a, “flattening of hierarchy.”  This means that offline religious authorities, such as a Priest, or Pastor, in the church are competing with online authors who have gained followers and popularity regardless of formal training. It is important to define what constitutes authority especially when considering these online contexts. As Pauline Cheong discusses, authority, when concerning the Internet, can be looked at in terms of two assumptions.  The first assumption Cheong makes is that religious authority is being destroyed by religious online activities, such as blogs, which pose a definite problem for religious communities.  The second assumption is that online practices are sustaining offline religious authority by reiterating and supporting the traditional views of authority.
Blogs however are unique; they can be looked at as relating to both assumptions.  Depending on the theme of the blog, it can either be looked at as a place that supports offline authority, by offering a space which supplements traditional offline practices, or a blog can be a space that challenges authority by offering new ideas that go in the opposite direction of existing offline beliefs. Cheong describes this paradox as being “dual logics” explained through a  “dialectical perspective”, which means that, “he logic of dialectics on religious authority would imply understanding the management of conflicting tensions, uneven gains, multiple opportunities, ambivalences and challenges that new media users like religious leaders face within their online and offline experiences” (Cheong, p. 20).  Religious blogs are double edge swords that can be useful or harmful, depending on the context, either reiterating or undermining offline religious authority. 

Cheong, P.H., Fischer-Nielsen, P., Gelfgren, S., and Ess, C. (eds) (Forthcoming, 2012)
Digital Religion, Social Media and Culture: Perspectives, Practices, Futures, New York:
Peter Lang.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Final Paper Topic

The research question that my final paper will address is how the Catholic Church and its authority choose to engage and incorporate new technology into religious teaching. The specific case study this paper will look at is how the Catholic Church deals with the issue of confession online, exploring mobile phone applications. This case study will help further explain the research question because it studies a very relevant case in which the Catholic Church integrates new media with a specific ritual, the act of confession. Thus, illustrating how the church exercises its authority concerning new technological advances. The specific case describes how the Catholic Church, in order to bring those astray back, have invented an application for the iphone which allows an individual to conveniently confess their sins (Beck, 2011).  Although as the article states, this digital type of confession does not replace or get rid of traditional confession; one must still go to a priest for absolution. (Beck, 2011). The article also discusses the Pope’s position on technology, which helps address the aspect of authority in the research question.  Overall, the case study will help provide further evidence that the Catholic Church is engaging in using technology for its religious practices, and these online practices are furthering the teaching in Catholicism.

Beck, Father Edward L. (2011, Feb. 8). Confession App: Catholic Church Sanctions New iPhone App. Retrived from app-roman-catholic-church-sanctions-iphone app/story?id=12866499#.TrMtGK48QzU.